Getting GISHy with it

Brandy Stark

The end of summer is marked by many things: high humidity, rapidly rising heat, and an event called GISH. And every year I find myself uttering that it seemed like a good idea at the time as I explain myself to friends and family exactly why I am covered in glitter for a solid week.

Let’s start at the beginning: The year was 2010. Misha Collins, the actor who portrays Castiel on the show Supernatural¸ was engaged in a challenge issued by Warner Brothers publicist Holly Ollis. The program had yet to win a People’s Choice Award; if they won, Ollis promised the actor a rhinoceros for his efforts in getting fans to vote. Collins posted the request to Twitter and the response was immediate: they won.

Collins kept his word. Through a mail-in campaign, he sent out pieces from a jigsaw puzzle of a rhinoceros. On the back of each one, he issued an absurd challenge, e.g., get a photograph of a group of firefighters wearing nothing but kale.

Inspired and delighted with the results, Collins launched GISHWHES, (the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen) in 2011. He challenged participants to document themselves doing community service, getting special tattoos, and doing unseemly things with Jello. It broke the world record for being the largest media scavenger hunt in both 2011 and 2012. He streamlined GISHWHES in 2018 and shortened the name to GISH and, in 2020, added day-long mini-GISH events.

The premise is that participants register online. They can form their own team, join another team, be randomly added to a team, or be part of two smaller teams that are merged together. During the first week of August the event launches. Teams have 7 days to complete as many of the nearly 200 items on the list. Adding to the chaos, items may be modified and new challenges are added. The ultimate honor is to be selected for the yearly Coffee Table Book which features submissions voted to be the best of that year.

I joined the fun in 2016 after getting an invite from a social media friend. My first thought that year was why I had put myself through unreasonable pain and suffering. It’s a rush of fear that every first timer feels; just as I was advised to push through it, so, too, I now advise other GISH “virgins”. But when it is all over, there is a great sense of satisfaction.

Over the years, I buried myself inside a coffin filled with popcorn. I photographed killer skeleton flamingos attacking my neighborhood. I created and got a charter for a Little Free Library of Supernatural Stuff. I honed my video skills creating 14-second miniature films. This year, I am working on getting an essay published describing the hunt. It is one of the challenges.

And now, dear reader, you are a participant in this mad dash thrill ride of surreal stuff that we lovingly know as GISH. Welcome.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store